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Faith Matters – Inspiration

Brendan Nicholls  |  29 May 2019

Despite challenges the mission of the church remains. Indeed the Holy Spirit always guides us so that justice, vitality and new ways come from times of challenge.

Being unique and special is an aspiration for many in our society. People work hard to prove their value and their incomparable merit that they often fail to offer, or even know, themselves.

Social media enables people to offer an edited vision of ourselves to the world. We only present images and information that conforms to the approved narrative we have of our life and image. But this image is a false. We are deeper and more valuable than we allow others to see or know. Ironically to be unique and special we simply have to know who we are and be that person.

In Religious Education classes at the College our students are encouraged to observe and be critical as they explore the history and teachings of the Church, the Bible and of Jesus himself. As students journey from their junior years to their senior studies they are guided to develop from a literal and fragile understanding of these things to a sophisticated and enduring appreciation of faith.


Courage is needed in allowing young people to critically explore the Church. In exploring the history of the Church, students see times where it was not true to the teachings of Jesus and that temptation and human weakness moved people to knowingly do wrong. In our times, young people have grown up hearing about how some used the image of their faith and ordination to hide evil desires and actions.

Conversely, in exploring the history of our Church the students find that although individuals within the Church can stain the Church with their choices, misuse of authority and ego have not changed the mission of the Church. The Holy Spirit always guides us so that justice, vitality and new ways come from times of challenge.

Encouraging the students to explore the Bible critically can cause alarm. Assisting students to explore Scripture as a text at a base level would be ignorant and misguided. As foundational understandings are refined, faith is questioned and on this journey the students require guidance. This is an essential task for the College as an underdeveloped literal interpretation of the Bible is certain to fail them.


To develop they require affirmation that their exploration and reasoning guided by the teacher and the Holy Spirit develops the ability to support their faith in the future and results in deep and enduring insights in the present. Growth requires challenge and development. Understanding and interpreting the Bible is for young people a very challenging experience. From this challenge growth occurs which bears fruit that informs and nourishes every other area of their life.

Associated with the student’s development in Biblical literacy is a change in how Jesus is understood and known by the student. In exploring the Gospels our students see Jesus in a new way. The person of Jesus, like ourselves, is complex and at unknowable. There is a mystery present that we cannot discern in examining the text of the Bible or the teachings of the Church. To know Jesus, we must ‘know’ him on a personal level. To develop this personal relationship students participate in prayer, liturgy and the Eucharist often. Even though he lives within us and we have a personal relationship with him we cannot truly know him in this life. Our love for Jesus is rewarded at the end of our lives when we meet him face to face.

Throughout the student’s time at Saint Ignatius College we accompany them as they complete their religious education studies, engage in social justice activities and develop their ability to pray and celebrate through liturgy. Over six short years at our College we hope and we pray that they are challenged, grow and come to see and be the best of our Church.


There is however another critical part of this process which occurs through unguided observation alone. Each day our students engage with so many members of our community. The staff at the College have a particular effect on the individual and therefore it’s paramount that they are faithful to the aims of the College, Church and community. What is even more important that this is that they are an image of Christ to the other; always. In our humanness we fail at times to achieve this completeness. What is essential though is that when staff fail to be truly present, err or do not serve as are should, is to acknowledge this, make good what is undone and improve in the future.

As our young people grow they are truly in the best place. They also have people around them who model how being true to yourself and allowing others to also can lead to growth and a completeness in diversity as part of a community.

So, with courage we offer all that we can to our students. In doing so we know with great faith in them and Jesus that they will be transformed and one day leave us as people who can offer their whole self to the world, unafraid of image and guided by their heart rather than their ego. The sum of our efforts is the development of exceptional men and women for others, who have a love for Jesus and a vision for a better more just world.

Brendan Nicholls is Liturgy coordinator St Ignatius College, Geelong


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